Opposition Labour leader calls time on 'fast buck' Britain

27th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

British opposition leader Ed Miliband told his Labour party Tuesday he was determined to smash the "something for nothing" culture that he blames for the country's economic and social ills.

Seeking to establish his credentials as a possible future premier, Miliband sought to convince the centre-left party -- and voters who deserted at the 2010 general election -- that he had an alternative to the spending cuts of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government.

Speaking at Labour's annual conference in Liverpool, northwest England, Miliband positioned himself as a values-driven leader with a vision for a remodelled 21st century Britain.

The 41-year-old, who beat his elder brother David to the Labour leadership a year ago, has so far struggled to make his mark.

He admitted Labour needed to take responsibility for some of the things that went wrong during their 13 years in power from 1997 to 2010 under prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as Britain's budget deficit grew during the boom years.

"People need to know where I stand. The Labour party lost trust on the economy," Miliband said.

"I am determined we restore your trust in us on the economy. I am determined to prove to you that the next Labour government will only spend what we can afford."

Attacking the "fast buck" culture built up in recent decades, he said the newspaper phone-hacking scandal and the August riots in cities around England pointed to "something deep in our country -- the failure of a system".

"An economy and a society too often rewarding not the right people with the right values, but the wrong people with the wrong values," he said.

He added: "It's our party's mission to say: no more. It's all got to change."

He offered a "new bargain" of "responsibility from top to bottom", where reward is linked to effort, Britain can pay down its debts, closed circles and vested interests are broken up.

Saying he was neither Brown nor Blair -- whose name was met by boos from some delegates -- Miliband said: "I'm my own man. And I'm going to do things my own way."

Miliband took to the stage against a backdrop of poor opinion polls, up to three and a half years out from the next general election.

A ComRes survey of 1,000 voters for The Independent newspaper showed 37 percent backed Cameron's Conservatives, with Labour on 36 percent and the Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in the government, on 12 percent.

Only 24 percent thought Miliband was a credible prime minister-in-waiting, against 57 percent who said he was not. Only 54 percent of Labour voters agreed.

Tapping into public gripes, he promised to cut the maximum annual university tuition fees in England from £9,000 ($14,130, 10,370 euros) to £6,000, tackle the "rigged market" causing soaring energy prices and reform welfare so it rewards the responsible rather than those who "abuse the system".

Defending Britain's "wealth creators" against asset-stripping "predators", he said the banks and financial services "must change so that they are part of the solution to our economic future, not part of the problem".

Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite trade union, said: "We have seen a man on a mission. There is definitely a phoenix rising from the ashes, into a people's party."

John Rimmer, national president for the NASUWT teachers' union, said: "I still need to be 100 percent convinced. Labour hasn't stood up to criticise the Conservatives on the cuts and undermining the public sector."

Conservative co-chair Sayeeda Warsi said: "What we heard today was a weak leader telling his party what it wanted to hear.

"All he promised was more of the same spending, borrowing and debt that got us into this mess in the first place."

© 2011 AFP

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